Canano threw down his cards and rose, saying, "That will do." The masquer left the table. He was a Genoese named Spinola.
"The bank is prosperous," I remarked to Canano.
"Yes," he replied, "but it is not always so. Pierrot was very lucky the other night."
"You did not recognize me in the least?"
"No, I was so firmly persuaded that the beggar was you. You know who he is?"
"I haven't an idea. I never saw him before that day." In this last particular I did not lie.
"It is said that they are Venetians, and that they went to Bergamo."
"It may be so, but I know nothing about them. I left the ball before they did."
In the evening I supped with the countess, her husband, and Triulzi. They were of the same opinion as Canano. Triulzi said that I had let the cat out of the bag by giving the beggars handfuls of sequins.
"That is a mistake," I answered. "When the luck is in my favour I never refuse anyone who asks me for money, for I have a superstition that I should lose if I did. I had won thirty pounds weight of gold, and I could afford to let fools talk."
The next day I got the lottery ticket and took it to the marchioness. I felt madly in love with her because I knew she was in love with me. Neither of them were playing, and I spent two hours in their company, talking of love all the while and enjoying their conversation immensely, for they were exceedingly intelligent. I left them with the conviction that if the cousin, and not Mdlle. Q----, had been thrown in my way, I should have fallen in love with her in just the same manner.
Although the carnival is four days longer at Milan than at any other town, it was now drawing to a close. There were three more balls. I played every day, and every day I lost two or three hundred sequins. My prudence caused even more surprise than my bad fortune. I went every day to the fair cousins and made love, but I was still at the same point; I hoped, but could get nothing tangible. The fair marchioness sometimes gave me a kiss, but this was not enough for me. It is true that so far I had not dared to ask her to meet me alone. As it was I felt my love might die for want of food, and three days before the ball I asked her if she, her two friends, the marquis, and the lieutenant, would come and sup with me.
"My brother," she said, "will call on you to-morrow to see what can be arranged."
This was a good omen. The next day the lieutenant came. I had just received the drawings at the lottery, and what was my surprise and delight to see the two numbers three and forty. I said nothing to the young marquis, as his sister had forbidden me, but I foresaw that this event would be favourable to my suit.
"The Marquis of F---- ," said the worthy ambassador, "asks you to supper in your own rooms with all the band of beggars. He wishes to give us a surprise, and would be obliged if you would lend him the room to have a set of disguises made, and to ensure secrecy he wants you to let have the same waiting-maid."
"With pleasure; tell the marquis that all shall be according to his pleasure."
"Get the girl to come there at three o'clock to-day, and let the pastry-cook know that the marquis has full powers to do what he likes in the place."
"Everything shall be done as you suggest."
I guessed at once that the marquis wanted to have a taste of Zenobia; but this seemed to me so natural that, far from being angry, I felt disposed to do all in my power to favour his plans. Live and let live has always been my maxim, and it will be so to my dying day, though now I do but live a life of memories.
As soon as I was dressed I went out, and having told the pastrycook to consider the gentleman who was coming as myself, I called on the tailor, who was delighted at my getting his wife work. He knew by experience that she was none the worse for these little absences.
"I don't want you," said I to the tailor, "as it is only women's dresses that have to be done. My good gossip here will be sufficient."
"At three o'clock she may go, and I shall not expect to see her again for three days."
After I had dined I called as usual on the fair marchioness, and found her in a transport of delight.